QR is an acronym for quick response – which makes sense as QR codes respond very quickly to requests to use them. Essentially, a QR code is a square-shaped barcode that you can scan with your mobile phone to load a website or application. QR codes can also be used to load phone numbers, login pages, and Wi-Fi details.
QR codes have their origin in the business world. They were invented to help improve the speed of supply chain processes. Over the last few years, though, QR codes have firmly entered the consumer world. Most recently, QR codes have become an essential part of the pandemic response, helping to facilitate ‘contactless’ services.
You may have been to a restaurant and noted a QR code sticker on your table. Your server may have asked you to use the QR code to load the menu instead of receiving a paper one. Similarly, QR codes have also been used for contact tracing to help keep track of COVID-19.
While QR codes are really useful, they can seem daunting if you don’t know how to use them. In fact, a YouGov study found 14% of Americans find QR codes to be challenging to use, with adults over the age of 65+ especially are likely to say so (20%).
Below, we’ll explain how to use QR codes. We’ll also help you to understand which QR codes are safe to use – and which you should be wary of.
How do I use a QR code?
Most mobile phones that have cameras have QR scanner capabilities. If you have an older mobile phone, your camera might not come with this capability. In this case, you should be able to download a QR scanning app from the Apple Store or Google Play. If you’d like assistance with this, let us know, and we can help.
Once that’s done, it takes just a few simple steps to scan a QR code.
- Open the QR application or the camera on your phone.
- Point your camera at the QR code. Line up your camera so that all four corners of the code are in view.
- Click the link that’s presented.
- Your phone will now do the work for you! It should automatically take you to the website, application or data attached to the QR code.
Are QR codes safe?
Legitimate QR codes are safe to use. You need to be wary, though, of fraudulent QR codes that are made by cybercriminals. These codes look like legitimate QR codes but have dangerous consequences.
A malicious QR code might:
- Install malware onto your phone
- Take you to a malicious website that asks you to hand over personal details or financial information
- Make your device join a suspicious Wi-Fi network that allows attackers to see and steal your data
Because we can’t read QR codes, it’s very easy to fall for a QR code scam. Plus, as these codes are increasingly popular, hackers are betting on the fact that people won’t suspect anything untoward.
Most recently, the FBI has warned of a scam in Texas, where hackers have been placing fraudulent QR codes near parking meters in Austin. Many civilians have scanned the codes to pay for parking, but the codes actually lead to a fake payment website. Not only are people getting parking tickets, but they’re paying hackers! It’s unknown whether the hackers are also stealing the credit card information given on the fake website – but it’s very possible!
This type of attack will become increasingly common. We’ll see more and more hackers print malicious QR codes and place them in public in order to trick people.
Don’t fall victim to a QR code scam!
This kind of scam shouldn’t put you off using QR codes entirely. You just need to be careful about the ones that you use.
We recommend being wary of all codes posted in public places. Make sure to inspect the code before scanning. It’s also helpful to look at the URL of the QR code if you have scanned it. Legitimate URLs are easy to spot, such as https://computertechsreno.com/ Look at the grammar, punctuation and spelling on the website to make sure it appears legitimate – particularly if the website is asking for payment details.
Malicious URLs tend to have spelling mistakes and are suspiciously long.
If you’re still unsure, don’t scan the QR code. We advise avoiding scanning all codes attached to street poles – as these can’t be trusted.
Generally speaking, QR codes on restaurant tables and in shops can mostly be trusted – but always check with a member of staff if you’re not sure. You can scan QR codes from sources you trust, like on TV, on popular websites, or a trusted person’s business card.
If you’re not sure about a QR code, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help you to protect your mobile phone. If you’d like assistance, contact your tech, or scan the following QR code with your smartphone: